Free NFL Picks: Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers Odds and Predictions
by Alan Matthews - 9/14/2016
I don't know what it is about the Pittsburgh Steelers that they bring out the hatred in some teams (they are usually good, so that's one thing). The NFL's most-heated rivalry used to be Steelers-Ravens when guys like Troy Polamalu and Ray Lewis were still around. Now it has to be Steelers-Bengals, and they renew hostilities on Sunday in Pittsburgh's home opener. It's one of two AFC playoff rematches from last season in Week 2, with Chiefs-Texans the other ( click here for more free picks for both games).
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By now we all are well aware that no team in the NFL has gone longer without a playoff win than the Bengals. And that Coach Marvin Lewis, with all his regular-season success, is 0-7 in his postseason career. I don't see how he's back in 2017 if the Bengals go one-and-done again (or miss out entirely).
In last year's wild-card round, the Bengals were the home team as AFC North champions, but Pittsburgh was a 2-point favorite because Cincinnati starting QB Andy Dalton was out with a broken thumb. The Bengals had the game in the bag, though, as backup QB A.J. McCarron hit A.J. Green on a 25-yard TD pass with 1:50 left for a 16-15 lead. The chances of the Steelers driving and hitting a winning field goal were lessened by the fact that Ben Roethlisberger had been knocked out injured and Landry Jones was in the game.
But in typical Bengals fashion, Jeremy Hill had a crucial fumble, and then incredibly stupid 15-yard penalties on both linebacker Vontaze Burfict and cornerback Adam Jones got the Steelers into field-goal position, and they won it on a Chris Boswell 35-yarder with 14 seconds left. Burfict laid a brutal, dirty hit on a defenseless Antonio Brown, giving him concussion that kept Brown out the next week against Denver. I believe the Steelers win that game with Brown because they nearly did without him. Jones got into it with Steelers assistant Joey Porter and might have bumped an official.
Bengals at Steelers Betting Story Lines
Color me surprised that the Bengals brought back Lewis, Burfict and Jones in the wake of that debacle. Either the coach should have been fired for his team losing control or both players should have been released after losing their minds. The Steelers won't be able to get revenge on Burfict here as he's suspended the first three games because of that hit. But I expect a lot of chippiness regardless. Cincinnati also is likely to be without Pro Bowl tight end Tyler Eifert a second straight game off ankle surgery.
The Bengals got what I think was a crucial Week 1 victory at the Jets, 23-22, because they could have easily been 0-2 after this game and history has shown it's very tough to reach the postseason following a 0-2 start. Dalton was sacked seven times by the Jets, and that's concerning, but was 23-for-30 for 366 yards with a TD and pick. A.J. Green blew up Darrelle Revis with 12 catches for 180 yards and a TD. The Bengals lost their No. 2 and No. 3 receivers, Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, in free agency, and Brandon LaFell stepped up as the No. 2 vs. the Jets with four catches for 91 yards. C.J. Uzomah took Eifert's spot and had two catches for 59 yards. But the Bengals rushed for only 57 yards. Since 1970, teams that rushed for 60 or fewer yards and allowed at least seven sacks had been 6-126-1 in those games.
Pittsburgh was perhaps more impressive than any team in Week 1 with a 38-16 rout Monday night at defending NFC East champion Washington. Ben Roethlisberger, whom I think could win his first MVP Award this season, threw for 300 yards and three scores. The Redskins opted to not stick Josh Norman on Antonio Brown full time, so he torched Bashaud Breeland for eight catches, 126 yards and two scores. When Brown lined up on Norman's side, he caught just 1-of-4 targets. Elsewhere, Brown caught every pass in his direction, including both TDs.
Starting in place of the suspended Le'Veon Bell (out two more games), 33-year-old DeAngelo Williams ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. That Steelers offense looked scary and didn't even have Bell or projected No. 2 receiver Markus Wheaton. He was out with a shoulder injury but could play here. Pittsburgh's excellent young linebacker Ryan Shazier hurt his knee in the game but the team thinks it's minor.
Bengals at Steelers Betting Odds and Trends
At 5Dimes , Pittsburgh is -3 (-125) with a total of 48.5. On the moneyline, the Steelers are -175 and the Bengals +155. On the alternate line, Pittsburgh is -3.5 (+100). As a road underdog last year, Cincinnati was 3-0 against the spread and 2-1 "over/under." As a home favorite, Pittsburgh was 3-2 ATS and 4-1 O/U.
The Bengals are 6-0-1 ATS in their past seven in Week 9. They have covered nine straight road games. Cincinnati is 10-3-1 ATS in its past 14 vs. the AFC. The Steelers are 4-0 ATS in their past four September games. They are 0-2-2 ATS in their past four after a win. The under is 7-3 in the past 10 meetings. The Steelers are 4-1-1 ATS in the past six in the series.
Bengals at Steelers Betting Prediction
The teams split the regular-season series last year with the Bengals winning at Pittsburgh in Week 8, 16-10. Bell was lost for the season in that one for Pittsburgh. The Steelers won at Cincinnati in Week 14, 33-20, and Dalton was lost for the season.
The winner here will have a huge leg up in the division. The Ravens won't be as bad as last year, but they didn't look like a contender in Week 1. The Browns are wretched. Pittsburgh is +105 to win the AFC North at BetOnline and Cincinnati +170.
I'd like to know if Shazier and Wheaton are playing, and that short week concerns me, but I'm taking the Steelers here -- probably at an alternate line of 2.5 when/if it's posted. Go under.
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Read more articles by Alan Matthews
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